Parrot Zik 2.0 review: A wireless headphone for hardcore tech fans

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The Good The Parrot Zik 2.0 Bluetooth headphone is lighter and more comfortable than the original Zik, it has a slick, eye-catching design and excellent build quality, plus a wealth of features, including wireless audio streaming, effective noise-cancellation, and touch-sensitive controls on the right earpiece. Also, the sound is very good for Bluetooth, and the battery is replaceable.

The Bad Battery life is mediocre; despite its high price, only a basic cloth carrying case is included; companion app is a bit buggy.

The Bottom Line Sporting impressive design and solid sound, Parrot's feature-packed and pricey Zik 2.0 wireless headphones will wow some users but intimidate others.

7.8 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 9
  • Sound 7
  • Value 7

Parrot released its original Zik wireless active noise-cancelling headphone a few years ago, and the moment it did its engineers began working on the next version of it. For Zik 2.0, which comes in six colors and also costs $400 (£300 UK, AU$500), Parrot once again worked with French designer Philippe Starck, and the new headphone is a clear improvement over the original except for its battery life.

Parrot redesigned the headphone from "the ground up to address users' feedback," and the most immediate difference you'll notice is a weight loss. Thanks to a move from iron to aluminum and some other design alterations, the headphone is now about 17 percent lighter, going from 325 grams to 270 grams (including the battery).

That's a big deal, because the original model, despite offering excellent sound and good comfort, was a little too heavy. It now feels significantly lighter, and I also thought the headphone itself felt a little more comfortable. (Parrot says the earcup is more spacious on the inside.)

The finish on the headphone has also been changed from a soft-to-the touch plastic to a swanky, faux-leather finish. In all, the headphone looks sleeker and makes more of a fashion statement, particularly if you go with one of the brighter color options. That said, its design won't appeal to everyone.

One thing to watch out for is accidentally turning off the headphones when you remove them from your head. That's because the power button is in a spot on the side of the headphone where your thumb might land when you're pulling them off.

The new Parrot Zik 2 is about 20 percent lighter than the original.. Sarah Tew/CNET

Loaded with high-tech features

When it was released, the original Zik was one of the most high-tech headphones on the market. Zik 2.0 is similarly packed with features. It has touch controls on the right earpiece that allow you to adjust volume, pause your music, answer calls, and skip tracks forward and back with a swipe of your finger. Some have said that those touch controls aren't quite as responsive as the touch controls on the original Zik -- and maybe they're not -- but I didn't have a problem using them.

I've always thought the touch controls are a great convenience feature, but some people don't like them because you can end up accidentally pausing your music when adjusting the headphone on your head. If you are one of those people, fear not, you can turn off the touch controls from the companion Zik 2.0 app, which is available for iOS and Android smartphones (the app works on tablets but isn't available yet natively for tablets, so the resolution isn't what it should be).

That companion app allows you to tweak your EQ settings, import custom settings from various artists, and raise and lower the intensity of the noise cancellation. By simply sliding your finger up and down on your smartphone screen, you can choose between several NC settings, including one that lets ambient noise into the headphone and one that's designed for airplane travel. The noise-cancelling worked well on the streets of New York and inside the New York City subway system. Like with other noise-cancelling headphones, there is a faint hiss when you turn the noise cancelling on to max levels.

I should note that Parrot has leveled up the internal tech with a higher-grade DAC (digital-to-analog converter), which it says creates cleaner sound, as well as better noise-cancelling. It has also equipped with the headphone with eight microphones, including a couple that are used for making voice calls (I made several "business" calls using the Zik 2.0 as a headset, and it performed well according to the people I was talking to.

You can completely customize the sound profile (EQ) of the headphone using the touchscreen on your smartphone or tablet. David Carnoy/CNET

That's not all. There's a bone-conduction sensor in the right earpiece that's suppose to help pick up low frequencies of your voice better for phone calls, NFC tap-to-pair technology, and a sensor in the right earpiece that detects when the headphones aren't on your head and automatically pauses the music when you rest them on your neck (you can turn this feature off from within the app).

The level of noise-cancelling can also be adjusted from within the app. David Carnoy/CNET

One of the features that's missing is aptX support. ( AptX is supposed to improve the sound quality of streaming over Bluetooth, though it's unclear how much of a difference it makes.)

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